Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sweet Potato-Pecan Drop Biscuits Recipe

After I left Merce Cunningham’s dance company, I went to culinary school. The final part of our instruction entailed an internship at a restaurant, and since I had work in Chicago for a few months staging a piece of Merce’s, I decided that I’d like to work for a Chicago-based chef. I did a little research, and found Grant Achatz, molecular gastronomist, and now of Alinea Restaurant fame, who was then the chef at Trio restaurant in Evanston, Illinois.

There is a restaurant camaraderie that doesn’t exist in most jobs. Forced to spend hours and hours together, and work through stressful situations, an easy closeness develops in a short period of time. At 34, I was the oldest person, and only woman in the kitchen, and what might have been a recipe for disaster, turned out to be a wonderful experience. The chefs encouraged me, respected me, and guided me through the difficult work of a Mobil guide five star restaurant, one of only 13 in the country at the time.

Soon after beginning at Trio, chef Achatz sent me into the pastry kitchen to work under chef Curtis Duffy, now chef de cuisine at Avenues in Chicago’s Peninsula hotel. Immediately intimidated by his knife skills while watching him swiftly cut papaya into perfect brunoise (1/8 inch x 1/8 inch x 1/8 inch cubes), I was nervous to do much of anything for fear of messing up, but Curtis’s welcoming nature helped me to feel part of the kitchen, and he and another talented chef, John Peters, became my friends.

Chef Curtis has been asking me to come to Chicago to eat at his restaurant for awhile now, and next weekend I’m finally going. John Peters and I will be joined by two other friends, and we’ll sit at the chef’s table with a view of the action in the kitchen. Curious to eat chef Curtis’s highly acclaimed food, which I will surely discuss here afterward, I am also interested to see the interaction of the people in the kitchen, and hope they are learning as much and having as much fun as I did.

Sweet Potato-Pecan Drop Biscuits Recipe

from Peter Berley’s, The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen

1 1/2 cup shelled pecans, roughly chopped
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (about 3 cups)
1 cup water
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup or honey
2/3 cup olive oil, unrefined corn oil, or melted unsalted butter (I use olive oil)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose or white bread flour (I use flour with the germ intact)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cut cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
2 teaspoons freshly milled black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly oil 2 baking sheets.

2. Spread the pecans on an ungreased baking sheet and toast in the oven for 8 minutes. Transfer them to a bowl to cool.

3. Steam the sweet potatoes until tender.

4. In a blender, combine the water, sweet potatoes, vinegar, oil, and maple syrup. Puree until creamy. Alternatively, pass the potatoes through the medium disk of a food mill into a bowl, then whisk in the water, vinegar, oil, and maple syrup.

5. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper.

6. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the sweet potato mixture and the pecans. Do not over mix -- a few lumps won’t matter, and you will wind up with lighter, fluffier, biscuits.

7. Drop the dough 1/2 cup at a time 2 to 3 inches apart on the baking sheets and bake for 15 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets for even browning. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a biscuit comes out clean.

8. Serve warm.

Yield: 1 dozen biscuits.

Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Raspberry and Blueberry Whole Wheat Muffins Recipe,
German Good Friday Pancakes Recipe, Cauliflower, Mint, and Olive Quiche with Spelt and Rye Flour Crust Recipe

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